Who is Your Primary Customer?



By Michael Wilkinson, CMF
Managing Director, Leadership Strategies, Inc.

Author, The Secrets of Facilitation and The Secrets to Masterful Meetings


Do you know who your primary customer is?  Most organizations have multiple customer types.  For example, if you were NBC, ABC, or CBS, your customers might include :

·      The viewing public

·      Advertisers

·      The Federal Trade Commission

·      The local affiliates who carry your programming

Note that all four of these are customers.  But which would be your primary customer?  Some would say the viewing public.  Others would say advertisers.  Still others would say the local affiliates.  Interestingly, we have found few who would say the Federal Trade Commission.

Why Does It Matter?

Before tackling an answer to the question, let’s focus on the question itself.  Why is it important to know who your primary customer is?  Isn’t it enough to know that they are all customers?

We at Leadership Strategies believe it is critical for enterprises to understand who their primary customer is. Why?  Suppose, your different customers conflict.  Suppose one group of customers want one thing from you, and yet another group of customers want something else that is diametrically opposed.  In other words, based on their needs, you can’t please both customer groups.  Whose needs do you address? And while we want to listen to all customers, we certainly will want to put extra effort to ensure that we hear and understand our primary customer.

How Might You Determine Your Primary Customer?

We use a simple test for determining an organization’s primary customer: 



If they go away, we
go out of business


Let’s go back to our example of NBC, ABC, and CBS.  Who is their primary customer? A case might be made for each of the customers listed.  Yet we believe the primary customer is the advertiser.  When a broadcaster loses enough of its advertisers, it will go out of business. 

Of course high viewership numbers are a key factor to keeping advertisers.  However, advertisers frequently will stay with a show because of the demographic the show reaches, despite relatively low ratings.  Who should the network listen to?

In the same way, viewers often clamor for better programming or alternative programming.  And while the broadcast networks listen, they know the truth.  They have to principally respond to the needs of their primary customer.

Who is your primary customer?  Are you paying close attention to their needs?  Strategic planning is a time to step back and ensure you understand who your customers are, how their needs are changing, and how you can adapt to better meet their needs.

You can learn more about strategic planning techniques in our on-line strategy course, Springboard Online!  If you would like assistance in developing your strategic plan, you may be interested in looking at our three strategic planning packages.


Michael Wilkinson is the Managing Director of Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company and author of  The Secrets of Facilitation and The Secrets to Masterful Meetings.  He is a Certified Master Facilitator and a much sought after strategic planning facilitator and speaker.


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